I am the resident of a beautiful small town in the Ottawa Valley. Almonte (Municipality of Mississippi Mills) was originally a mill town. The mills closed down decades ago and many of the beautiful old buildings have been restored and are being lived in and used by local residents. The downtown core is slowly being redeveloped, thanks to creative and innovative small town entrepreneurs and the town is well on its way to becoming a tourist destination.
What is Almonte famous for (besides its friendly citizens)? The picturesque Mississippi River, that winds its way through the centre of town and flows over several waterfalls. Madame Premier, I am writing to you because of the Enerdu hydroelectric project, which will involve construction of a large hydroelectric dam in downtown Almonte.
This not the first such project in Almonte – another hydroelectric project (just a few hundred metres downstream of the proposed development) was carried out a few years ago. In stark contrast to the current proposal, that power plant is located below a hill, on the other side of the road from the falls and is not easily seen. I should mention that that power company is owned by the ratepayers of Mississippi Mills, provides citizens with electricity and generates over $2.5 million in annual revenues – money that stays in the community.
This is a very different proposition from the current situation – an outside private firm whose business is selling hydro to the province, physically altering the bottom of the river and constructing a large building. It appears that the Enerdu project has the potential to damage the physical environment and will not benefit the citizens of Almonte in any way. The profits generated will benefit only one private company.
You can learn more about this project at riverwatchers.ca, almonte.com, and at millstonenews.com. I encourage you to take a few minutes to look at those sites. Although I have read all of the documentation that I have managed to find, it is a relatively difficult project to describe. Essentially, Enerdu intends to hoe ram out (a hoe ram is a vehicle equipped with a jack hammer) 1500 square metres of the river floor during low water flow periods, normally in the summer, and to build a dam with an inflatable bladder at the head of the falls where the flash boards now sit in the summer. Flash boards are temporary wooden boards placed across the river to drive water toward the Enerdu generator. A 5,000 square foot power plant will be constructed – in the heart of an otherwise picturesque downtown Almonte.
Aside from the fact that this work will take place during the height of the summer tourist season, many concerns have been expressed regarding long-term impacts on the flow of the river, potential for flooding and physical alteration of the existing water falls.
The falls and river are a key tourist attraction and local businesses are concerned that they will be negatively impacted both by the construction process and by the expanded power plant. The issue, for me, is that it seems that the residents of Almonte do not have any recourse.
Please, Madame Premier, take the time to look into this project. We, the citizens of Almonte, feel helpless. The Mississippi Mills council has requested a Part II order, requesting that the Minister of Natural Environment conduct its own environmental assessment on the project and not rely on the self-assessment of Enerdu. This seems to be our last hope. Please encourage your officials to look into this project and its potential impact on the town of Almonte.
This is the way that this piece of the Mississippi River looks right now. Please help us to ensure that it stays this way.
Cc/ Jim Bradley, Minister of the Environment
John Levi, Mayor, Mississippi Mills